ZU holds dialogue on ‘Power of Hashtags: Navigating the Social Media landscape’


Ziauddin University presented the fifth interactive series of “ZU Dialogues”, titled “The Power of #Hashtags: Navigating the Social Media landscape”, on Wednesday.

The aim behind this online dialogue session was to get opinions and analysis of the experts about how strong a hashtag is, how much influence social media has on its users, the right and positive use of social media and how we can bring an optimistic change in our society by using social media.

Najia Ashar, Broadcast Journalist and President of the Global Neighborhood for Media Innovation, whilst answering the question about the social media trending said “It creates a community of voices to talk about specific topics. Great thing about the hashtags is that they brought communities together during the times of natural disasters, tragedies, and sufferings. The biggest hashtag of 2015 was #blacklifematters. it was used more than 9 million times by the social media users. Madarsa rape case, Mee too movement, Shahzaib murder case, Aurat March, motorway rape case they would not have gotten that much attention if there were no social media so no doubt social media help mobilize communities, organize protest, raise their collective voices against the unquestioned authorities as big media houses are influenced by power corridors and they can’t go against their financial interests”.

During the dialogue session she disclosed that there is still a deadlock on social media amended rules. The third version of social media rule was published by the ministry of information & telecommunication, earlier this month, for the removal of unlawful online content for 2021, digital rights activists are against it because the most problematic provision remains unchanged, social media companies are also against it.

While talking about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Ms Ashar carried out that you can be mindful of this because of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) many social media apps ask people to allow data tracking so whenever you are downloading any app you can turn it off from its settings to avoid being tracked. Educate yourself about cookies, location, read terms and conditions, don’t give privilege to companies to decide what they can do with our data.

Tehmina LodhI, Associate Professor and Principal, Ziauddin College of Media Sciences, while presenting her argument about the cyber bullying said “cyber bullying can be very devastating for a person psychologically as well as physically. According to a research report around 13% of the teens reported being cyber bullied at least once in their life and that’s quite a high percentage. There is so much access to viral content, pornography, so much racists content, homophobic, religious based content so we should keep people informed about their rights that how can they handle because it’s quite difficult for a person to handle it individually.”

On questions about the social media’s effect on a person’s mental health Ms. Lodhi said that multiple studies have found that there is a heavy link with depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts; it also promotes negative experiences.

“You get biologically high when someone clicks a like button for your picture on social media and people get obsessed about it so much. It is just like playing with your mind and you have absolutely no idea how much long-term damage it is doing to us. People are getting influenced by what’s happening on social media. It is replacing our family time. We really need to put a check on it because this is going to be the biggest pandemic for what we have gone through in coming years”.

While presenting his argument about the power of hashtag, Kamal Siddiqi, Director, Centre for Excellence in Journalism at IBA in Karachi said “social media is much more independent as compared to mainstream media. We can observe from the past few years that the mainstream media is heavily censored. If a person wants to look for some news or something happening, people will go to twitter rather than some major news publication that shows the importance and power of social media. In our country people are using social media for highlighting their problems, grievances, and sharing their stories, government is also using social media for making announcements regarding different issues. So, it becomes the prime source of information and we have noticed the government takes quick action against issues that become viral through social media”.

“Through social media we are having discussions that we have never had before. Once there was a time when state media used to control everything, newspapers were censored. There was no way to communicate with each other. People are talking about issues that we have never talked about and they were considered as taboo topics now youngsters are talking about sexuality, drugs, alcohol, child abuse, violence against women, all these issues are being debated and because of social media we get to know all sides of stories”, Mr Siddiqi further explained about the negative and positive role of social media.

Presenting the contrasting dialogue about the government’s usage of social media he stated “today’s government takes social media very seriously as compared to previous governments. This government is very sensitive about its image on social media, possibly that’s why they have invested so much on social media. If you look at the armed forces, ISPR they also have taken social media very seriously. Most importantly, what we are seeing is that most of our ministers, politicians, stakeholders, opinion leaders are now using social media, especially twitter to issue statements. Government not only using social media but also taking action against highlighted wrong doings in the country”.

Guest Speaker of the ZU Dialogues Brittney Stewart, Spokesperson, U.S. Consulate General, Karachi while talking about the rise and uses of social media said that according to data report number of social media users have been doubled than January 2016 that means 1 billion social media users have been added to the global total in the past three years. Growth of social media penetration has increased year to year. We have seen this growth increasing since and during the outbreak of Covid-19. During this pandemic the UN had already warned the world about the upcoming fear, uncertainty, and negative impact of social media on people’s mental health. As we saw the growth and rise of social media in 2020 this level of social media activism has taken to the whole new level.

“Activists use social media and create hashtags and Facebook events to better organize their protest and all these global protests we are observing are occurring because of social media. On the other hand, from a marketing perspective businesses and brands are adopting E-Commerce business strategies. Also, in the past we have observed the leakage of customer’s data privacy. Negative sides of social media like Data privacy, security, ethics, cyber bullying, fake news, miss information and disinformation are the topics of discussion in the whole wide world. It is totally up to us as an individual, influencer, change maker, communities, businesses, civil society to identify what and how we wish to change anything and ultimately come up with the solution to make social media a tool which is beneficial for all the users around the world” she added.

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